"He’s had four years and he’s proved himself to be a Wall St. President, he’s proved himself to be imperial to the core, he’s proved himself to be a war criminal."
Parmbir Gill: Cornel, you campaigned for Obama in 2008 but unlike many other critical supporters of the President, your critique of his policies eventually eclipsed your support as his first term unfolded. And as a result you’ve found yourself in confrontation with former comrades – but still brother – like Michael Eric Dyson, Al Sharpton and others, who remain allied to the Obama regime while purporting to be critical of it from within.
CW: You don’t see too much criticism coming from either one of them though! (laughs). I think they’ve sold their soul for a mess of Obama pottage!
PG: Right, and it’s obvious that these confrontations have led many in the mainstream American press to denounce you, but even then your popularity among poor and working people in America and across the world continues to grow. How do you account for that?
CW: Well, one important thing to keep in mind is that in the 65 events that I did, at each stop I would tell them that we must bring Reaganism to a close – McCain and Palin were the last moments of Reaganite policy (unregulated markets, indifference towards the poor, stagnating wages) – and that if Obama won, I would break dance in the afternoon and be his major critic the next morning. That’s how I ended every speech. And so I broke dance in the afternoon [when Obama won in 2008] because we did stop McCain and Palin. But the next morning I knew the social forces behind him (Wall Street and so forth) needed to be called into question. So when I went after Larry Summers, went after Tim Geithner, went after Gary Gensler and all the Wall St. folk who inhabited his space, his cabinet, Rahm Emanuel, his chief of staff, and so forth, they [his supporters] said ‘you’re turning on the President!’. I said ‘no, I’m just being consistent. I’m being true to what I said’. But then that’s where the demonization set in. But, you know, that goes with the territory.
SHOZAB RAZA: There have been some critiques of Occupy Wall Street from the Left: for example, that it failed to significantly engage with the labour movement and trade unions in the US or that its radically decentralized structure made it very difficult to arrive at decisions to accomplish particular objectives. And so moving forward, what are the lessons that we, as participants in Occupy and supporters of it, can learn from the movement?
CORNEL WEST: I think we have to draw a distinction between social motion and social movements. Social movements are very rare because they require a sophisticated level of organization, of leadership, of persons who are highly courageous and willing to actually pay a price. Social motion is very important because it helps shape the climate of opinion and that’s exactly what the Occupy motion has been all about – it helps shape the climate of opinion. But it was in many ways so heterogeneous, so diverse in all of its various voices and perspectives. What I loved about it was that there was a lot of respect. It wasn’t dogmatic, imposed from above, professional revolutionaries coming in with Truth (with a capital ‘T’) and imposing it on everybody. That’s what we were wrestling with in the 60’s and 70’s. You didn’t have that kind of thing this time around – and that was very important.
On the other hand, it was difficult to sustain it. But I think that the next wave of social activism will be among young people and it’s going to take a variety of different forms. I’m old school so I have to learn from young people – for example, about social networking to forms of democratic expression that I haven’t even thought of in that regard. I have a respect for the anarchists precisely because – though I’m not one – they have a powerful critique of concentration of power in the nation-state. And as a black man in America dealing with the repressive apparatus, you live under death threat every day from your own government. You know governments can be vicious – and that’s the history of black people in America. So then the anarchists say ‘we want democratic accountability, not just of the corporations (which, coming out of the socialist tradition, I accept) but we want to make sure that the government doesn’t have a concentration of power, especially instrumentalities of violence which can be brought to bear on dissidents, who are then criminalized and assassinated.’ And that’s very important. Yet at the same time, as a radical democrat or a deep democrat, in the end I’m not an anarchist but anarchism has some deep truths that one has to take into consideration.
“Murkier still is what it would mean for intelligence and law enforcement to target the ‘scattered remnants’ of al-Qaida. Most significantly, once the AUMF [Authorization to Use Military Force] expires, big questions would immediately arise about the legal framework for the apparatus of drone strikes and commando raids that President Obama has expanded and institutionalized for the long haul. The CIA in particular is a question mark: since the legal rationale for its drone program has never been disclosed, its dependency on the AUMF or its typical ‘Title 50’ authorities is unclear.”—For the First Time, Obama Official Sketches Out End to War on Terror
“A little less than two years ago, when Internet access was cut off in Egypt, we worked with Twitter to launch Speak2Tweet, giving the ability for anyone to tweet using just a voice connection.
In the last day, Internet access has been completely cut off in Syria. Unfortunately we are hearing reports that mobile phones and landlines aren’t working properly either. But those who might be lucky enough to have a voice connection can still use Speak2Tweet by simply leaving a voicemail on one of these international phone numbers (+90 212 339 1447 or +30 21 1 198 2716 or +39 06 62207294 or +1 650 419 4196), and the service will tweet the message. No Internet connection is required, and people can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or going to twitter.com/speak2tweet.”—Google pushing Speak2Tweet during the Syria Internet blackout, via Google on Google+. (via futurejournalismproject)
Neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama White House ever laid out a vision for what an end to the war on terrorism would actually look like. But as Obama prepares for his second term in office, one of his top defense officials is arguing that there is an end in sight, and laying out conditions for when the U.S. will reach it.
“On the present course, there will come a tipping point,” Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon’s top lawyer, told the Oxford Union in the U.K. on Friday, “a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of al-Qaida and its affiliates have been killed or captured, and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States, such that al-Qaida as we know it, the organization that our Congress authorized the military to pursue in 2001, has been effectively destroyed.” At that point, “our efforts should no longer be considered an armed conflict.”
Johnson’s description of the endgame raises more questions than answers. But under his formulation, the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), which the Obama administration has cited as the foundation of its wartime powers, would expire. That would mean any detainee at Guantanamo Bay who hasn’t been charged with a crime would be free to go, although Johnson says that wouldn’t necessarily happen immediately. It would also raise questions about whether the U.S. would possess residual legal authorities for its lethal drone program — which Johnson defended to the BBC on Thursday — including the legal basis for any “postwar” drone strike the CIA might perform.
In Johnson’s view, once al-Qaida’s ability to launch a strategic attack is gone, so too is the war. What will remain is a “counterterrorism effort” against the “individuals who are the scattered remnants” of the organization or even unaffiliated terrorists. “The law enforcement and intelligence resources of our government are principally responsible” for dealing with them, Johnson said, according to the text of his speech, with “military assets in reserve” for an imminent threat.
Johnson, considered one of the more liberal voices on Obama’s senior national security team, notably did not say when the U.S. will reach his tipping point. [continue]
A U.S. Senate panel this morning approved a landmark privacy bill that would curb law enforcement’s warrantless access to the contents of e-mail, private Facebook posts, and other data that Americans store in the cloud.
The voice vote was a victory for a coalition of technology firms including Apple, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, which had urged Congress to update a 1986 law to reflect changes in technology — and preserve the same privacy rights that Americans enjoy if their files are printed out and stored in a cabinet at home.
“We have to update our digital privacy laws if we want to keep up with rapid changes in technology,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who’s the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
MARTIN LEE: Well, the take-home message from the votes is significant. America woke up after the elections and looked itself in the mirror and realized two states had voted to legalize marijuana for adult use.
But there’s caveats in the proposition, the ballot measure that passed in Washington state, in particular, that are quite troubling. And it has to do with driving under the influence of drugs. There are stipulations in the ballot measure that’s passed that state that a person who has over a certain amount of metabolites, marijuana metabolites, in their body, can be charged with driving under the influence of drugs. The problem here is that the metabolites for marijuana can stay in the body for many weeks after one uses it. One can take a few puffs of a marijuana cigarette four to six weeks ago, and it’ll still turn up in a drug driving test. So I don’t know how this will hold up in a court of law. The science is very clear on this. The fact that metabolites are in the body is not an indication necessarily of one driving—has been driving impaired.
What’s most troubling of all, however, is for people under 21, drivers under 21 in the state of Washington, there’s a zero tolerance for any indication of marijuana use, so that if a person is pulled over, a 17-year-old driver, and is given a drug test and is found to have marijuana metabolites in their body, they can lose their license, and they could be severely penalized for having any level of the metabolites in their system. And the reason why that’s so troubling is because there’s been a long history of racist law enforcement patterns with respect to marijuana, not only in Washington state, but throughout the United States. And there’s really nothing in the law that would prevent the selective targeting of—particularly for black and Latino youth, for continuing for arrest and harassment by law enforcement. In fact, if anything, the new law might encourage that. And other—officials from other states are already saying that Washington may be a model for the law they’d like to see in their states for marijuana to be legalized. So this is troubling. If the past is any prologue for the future, there’s no reason to be—feel confident that these racist law enforcement patterns won’t continue. And that’s not to say that definitely will continue; it remains to be seen.
“All this is what the Times and AP have reduced to nothing more than being ‘locked up alone in a small cell’ and having to ‘sleep naked for several nights.’ Nothing at all about the draconian restrictions; nothing at all about ‘shakedowns,’ wake-ups, 24-hour surveillance in bright light (even on the toilet), isolation, chains, deprivation, betrayal, interrogation, and forced nudity — not just when he was sleeping (in bright light, under observation) but also out in corridors, while ‘officers inspected him.’ All of this has been erased by the ‘objective’ reporting of the NYT and AP. None of this is to be known or considered by serious, respectable people. It didn’t happen. It doesn’t matter. Manning is a whiner who made America look bad, and in doing so, he helped a website that made America look bad. That’s all that really matters. The details of his treatment — not to mention the details of what he and WikiLeaks revealed — are unimportant. You don’t have to think about it. Just nod your head, shrug your shoulders, and go about your business.”—Chris Floyd, Blanking Bradley Manning: NYT and AP Launch Operation Amnesia
Sen. Dianne Feinstein has introduced an amendment [that amendment passed, ed.] that superficially looks like it could help, but in fact, would cause harm. Feinstein was a forceful leader last year against the NDAA detention provisions and believes that she is doing the right thing this year. But the problem is that the actual text of her amendment is bad.
It might look like a fix, but it breaks things further. Feinstein’s amendment says that American citizens and green-card holders in the United States cannot be put into indefinite detention in a military prison, but carves out everyone else in the United States.
There are three problems with her amendment:
+ It would NOT make America off-limits to the military being used to imprison civilians without charge or trial. That’s because its focus on protections for citizens and green-card holders implies that non-citizens could be militarily detained. The goal should be to prohibit domestic use of the military entirely. That’s the protection provided to everyone in the United States by the Posse Comitatus Act. That principle would be broken if the military can find an opening to operate against civilians here at home, maybe under the guise of going after non-citizens. This is truly an instance where, when some lose their rights, all lose rights — even those who look like they are being protected. + It is inconsistent with the Constitution, which makes clear that basic due process rights apply to everyone in the United States. No group of immigrants should be denied the most basic due process right of all — the right to be charged and tried before being imprisoned. + It would set some dangerous precedents for Congress: that the military may have a role in America itself, that indefinite detention without charge or trial can be contemplated in the United States, and that some immigrants can be easily carved out of the most basic due process protections.
The executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League just wrote to Congress:
The [Feinstein] amendment is of particular concern to the Japanese American Citizens League because of our historic concern stemming from the Japanese American incarceration experience during World War II. Nearly half of the internees were not United States citizens, and would not have been protected by this amendment. In consideration of due process and the rule of law within the United States, we urge you to oppose the Feinstein amendment, unless revised to protect all persons in the United States from indefinite detention without charge or trial.
There are good ways and bad ways to amend the NDAA. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado) has introduced two amendments that would change the NDAA in good ways. But Sen. Feinstein, despite good intentions, has introduced a harmful amendment.
[…] I find it interesting that less than a day after … the election, Brennan’s drone program took out a Yemeni who – by local accounts, at least – could have easily have been captured.
American counterterrorism officials have painted drone strikes as a tool of last resort, utilized only when targets represent an imminent threat and are nearly impossible to take out by other means. But people in Beit al Ahmar say it’s hard to argue that [Adnan al-]Qadhi’s capture would have been out of the question. He’d already been arrested, and released, before, in 2008 after an attack on the American Embassy. And Beit al Ahmar, nine miles outside Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, is no isolated enclave – it’s the birthplace of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and home to much of the military’s leadership.
Sitting less than an hour’s drive from the capital, residents here say Qadhi could have been captured easily.
Few here dispute Qadhi’s open sympathy toward AQAP. After all, the target’s house, modest compared to nearby fortress-like compounds, sticks out because of a mural on one side that shows al Qaida’s signature black flag.
But his relatives and associates say there’s more nuance to Qadhi’s story. While he was labeled as a local leader of AQAP after his death, as recently as last winter he’d participated on a team that mediated between the government and AQAP-linked militants who’d seized control of the central town of Rada.
Back in April–the last time Drone Assassination Czar John Brennan was making a big show of the purported order of his drone program–here’s some of what he said about who the US targeted with drones.
Even if it is lawful to pursue a specific member of al-Qaida, we ask ourselves whether that individual’s activities rise to a certain threshold for action, and whether taking action will, in fact, enhance our security. For example, when considering lethal force we ask ourselves whether the individual poses a significant threat to U.S. interests. This is absolutely critical, and it goes to the very essence of why we take this kind of exceptional action.
I am not referring to some hypothetical threat, the mere possibility that a member of al-Qaida might try to attack us at some point in the future. A significant threat might be posed by an individual who is an operational leader of al-Qaida or one of its associated forces. Or perhaps the individual is himself an operative, in the midst of actually training for or planning to carry out attacks against U.S. persons and interests.
In addition, our unqualified preference is to only undertake lethal force when we believe that capturing the individual is not feasible. [my emphasis]
But the case of Adnan al-Qadhi appears to show that John Brennan can’t even follow the rules he has claimed publicly he follows.
And that bit about whether or not a particular drone strike would enhance our security?
Here’s what al-Qadhi’s villagers–who up until this strike were peaceful–have to say about the strike.
In the center of the village, a farmer named Abduljaber Saber held forth on the strike with his neighbors, calling the attack a violation of the rule of law, casting it as an example of “American hypocrisy.”
His neighbor, Mohamed Abdulwali, took a break from repairing a water canister to chime in: “Any action has a reaction. Any violence will breed violence.”
“In essence, it is a class war of the global rich against the rest of humanity. Its purpose is to destroy the gains made by working people since 1945, to increase the rate of exploitation and profit, and to redistribute wealth from labour to capital. The initial impulse to do this was intensified competition between capitalists during the Long Recession. Shrinking markets meant that bosses needed to cut costs by sacking workers and driving down wages. But once begun, the global ‘race to the bottom’ became a permanent feature of a new economic order emerging from the crisis.”—A Marxist History of the World part 102: What is neoliberalism? | Counterfire
The Senate has revived a divisive debate over civil liberties and the president’s powers as commander in chief, voting that Americans citizens suspected of terrorism and seized on U.S. soil may not be held indefinitely.
A coalition of liberal Democrats and libertarian Republicans backed an amendment to a sweeping defense bill that said the government cannot detain a U.S. citizen or legal resident indefinitely without charge or trial even with the authorization to use military force or a declaration of war.
The 67-29 vote late Thursday was on a measure sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Mike Lee, R-Utah. The strong bipartisan approval sets up a fight with the House, which rejected efforts to bar indefinite detention when it passed its bill in May.
“United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice will face serious and blatant conflicts of interest if nominated and confirmed as United States Secretary of State. Rice has major financial interests in the company extracting oil from Canada’s tar sands, the company building the pipeline that will carry the oil across the U.S., and the Canadian banks financing this deadly project. As Secretary of State, Rice would be responsible for the key recommendation to President Barack Obama on lifting the president’s ban on construction of the Keystone XL pipeline imposed in January. She would make the decision knowing that there would be major impact on nearly one third of her (and her husband’s) investments.”—Susan Rice’s Conflict of Interest – Major Holdings in Tar Sands Oil, Keystone XL Pipeline, and Canadian Financiers
That’s the message from US officials tonight, who say the president is now considering several options for deeper intervention into the ever worsening civil war, including the possibility of directly arming certain rebel factions.
Up until now the US has just been playing the role of facilitator, with the CIA smuggling other nations’ arms into Syria for them through various intermediaries. Officials say no decision has been made yet on whether or not to move directly into arms supplying.
If the decision is made, it will make the question of which factions to arm all the more difficult, as the US at present maintains at least a level of deniability in its current smuggling. With various groups vying to be the Western-friendly “umbrella,” and myriad secular and Islamist factions on the ground, it will be an uphill battle for the US to convince the world it isn’t arming terrorists.
Bombs targeting Shia Muslims and security forces in Iraq on Thursday killed at least 38 people and wounded 107 others in the deadliest day of violence to hit the country in more than two months.
The attacks, the worst since 76 people were killed on September 9, marked the second series of bombings against Shias this week after three car bombs exploded near their places of worship in Baghdad on Tuesday, killing a dozen and wounding scores more.
The Thursday violence brings the number of people killed in attacks this month to at least 145 – nine more than in October, reversing a three-month trend of declining death tolls, according to an AFP tally based on security and medical sources.
The Palestinian UN bid for non-member observer status will certainly pass today as the majority of UN member states have expressed their support for the initiative. The positive vote will do little to alter the course of Israel’s ongoing settler-colonial expansion in the West Bank or its racially-motivated policies aimed at the forced population transfer of non-Jewish Palestinians throughout Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Still, the significance of Palestine’s bolstered status is three-fold.
First, it diplomatically affirms the Palestinian cause for self-determination as a just one amongst the community of nations thereby rebuffing Israel’s insistence the the conflict is a national security issue. Unfortunately, those states will not place the necessary pressure upon Israel to thwart its structurally violent practices.
Second, it saves the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority from the specter of complete irrelevance at a moment when Hamas has emerged as a viable political player in the region together with the admission that the peace process has failed. This will not only benefit the Palestinian Authority but Israel whose occupation costs have been significantly reduced thanks to the PA’s security apparatus as well as the United States which has been its primary financier.
Finally, the new status will allow Palestine to appeal for ICC jurisdiction thereby enabling it to hold Israel to account for its alleged war crimes committed in, now two, Gaza operations as well as its settlement colonial project in the West Bank.
The bid will not, however, work to salvage the two-state solution, which has long been declared dead. Israel has civilian and military control over sixty-two percent of the West Bank; the Apartheid Wall has further confiscated another thirteen percent of the West Bank; and the Jewish-Israeli settler population now numbers six hundred thousand. East Jerusalem, which is part of the West Bank, has been the site of rapid ethnic cleansing where Israel is explicitly pursuing a Judaization campaign. Meanwhile, Gaza is territorially separated, isolated, and besieged. The World Health Organization says it will be unlivable by 2020.
The next steps forward include dealing with the one-state reality. There exists one political entity between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea home to an inextricable Jewish-Israeli and Muslim and Christian-Palestinian population whom the Israeli state distinguishes based on religion regardless of their territorial location within Israel or the OPT.
The Federal Communications Commission is charging ahead with its plan to let Rupert Murdoch gobble up more media outlets. And we’ve just learned that the FCC may try to hold a secret vote to allow more media consolidation in the U.S. — possibly within the next two weeks.
Here are five things you need to know about the FCC’s giveaway to big media.
1) It will give Rupert Murdoch more power.
If the FCC guts its ownership rules, nothing will stop Murdoch and other media giants from getting even more control over your news.
2) It will make our media less diverse.
Women own less than 7 percent of all broadcast outlets, while people of color control only 3.6 percent of all TV stations and just 8 percent of all radio stations. Most of the TV stations women and people of color own fall outside the top four in each media market. As it happens, the FCC proposal targets stations outside the top four — which means that ownership levels for women and people of color would plunge even further under Genachowski’s plan.
3) It will create local media monopolies.
One company will be allowed to own a daily newspaper, two TV stations and up to eight radio stations in your town. That one company could be your Internet provider, too.
4) It will mean less news for local communities.
Less competition means less overall news coverage.
5) It goes against the will of the people.
Genachowski’s plan is essentially the same media consolidation proposal the Bush FCC tried to force through in 2007. The Senate voted to repeal it. A federal court overturned it. And 99 percent of the public comments the FCC received opposed it.
“Incidents such as the Tazreen fire and an even more deadly blaze in Pakistan this September draw comparisons to the Triangle fire of the early 20th century in Manhattan, which led to public horror at the brutal deaths of young workers. But while the Triangle Fire lit the spark for significant labor reforms in the United States, no one knows how many more South Asian workers will perish until the lessons are learned. Of course, corporations have learned carefully over the years how to atomize the supply chain to minimize liability. They’re working hard to ensure that Triangle’s lessons for the labor struggle, of the need to empower workers to protect themselves, are quietly forgotten.”—Bangladesh Factory Fire: Workers Burn, Walmart Ducks Responsibility (via azspot)
Currency wars are set to intensify as the US Senate is considering new sanctions against Iran that would prevent Iran getting paid for its natural resource exports in gold bullion.
The new sanctions aimed at reducing global trade with Iran in the energy, shipping and precious metals sectors may soon be considered by the U.S. Senate as part of an annual defense policy bill, senators and aides said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
The sanctions would end “Turkey’s game of gold for natural gas,” Reuters reported a senior Senate aide as saying, referring to reports that Turkey has been paying for natural gas with gold due to sanctions rules.
The legislation “would bring economic sanctions on Iran near de facto trade embargo levels with the hope of speeding up the date by which Iran’s economy will collapse,” the aide said.
Last week Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan has revealed a critical detail about a widely discussed Turkey-Iran gold trade boom, disclosing that the Islamic republic was exporting gas to Turkey in exchange for payment in gold bullion.
It is also reported that Iranians are buying Turkish gold with the Turkish Lira, which is deposited into their bank accounts in exchange for Turkey’s natural gas purchases, the deputy prime minister said at midnight Nov. 22 during a parliamentary session.
Turkey cannot transfer monetary payments to Iran in U.S. dollars due to U.S sanctions against the country’s alleged nuclear weapons program.
Iran has been forced to shun the international financial system and the petrodollar as means of payment and turn to the international gold market to ensure it gets paid for its natural resources in order to prevent absolute economic collapse.
This is crucial to understand:
Iran poses a far more serious threat to the U.S. than its disputed nuclear aspirations. Over the last few years, Iran has unleashed a weapon of mass destruction of a very different kind, one that directly challenges a key underpinning of American hegemony: the U.S. dollar as the exclusive global currency for all oil transactions.
… By accepting and encouraging countries to pay for its oil in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, Iran has deliberately taken the same action that, I argue in Making the World Safe for Capitalism, led directly to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
“‘What way is this to kill a person, in such a place?’ said Qalil Lahib, owner of the land where the strike took place, pointing out civilian homes and a nearby school as he stood over the missile site. ‘It’s shameful, it’s a crime.’”
The Nov. 7 drone strike that killed alleged al Qaida-linked operative Adnan al Qadhi outside Beit al Ahmar was just one of more than 50 American airstrikes believed to have taken place in Yemen so far this year.
Unlike the usual post-strike conjecture, however, this one has unleashed a flurry of speculation about why Qadhi, a well-known figure in this town, was targeted in such a violent and anonymous way.
American counterterrorism officials have painted drone strikes as a tool of last resort, utilized only when targets represent an imminent threat and are nearly impossible to take out by other means. But people in Beit al Ahmar say it’s hard to argue that Qadhi’s capture would have been out of the question. He’d already been arrested, and released, before, in 2008 after an attack on the American Embassy. And Beit al Ahmar, nine miles outside Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, is no isolated enclave – it’s the birthplace of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and home to much of the military’s leadership.
Sitting less than an hour’s drive from the capital, residents here say Qadhi could have been captured easily. The Central Intelligence Agency in the United States, whose drone launched the missile that killed Qadhi, declined to comment.
“It is nearly inconceivable to imagine that he could not have been taken into custody alive,” said Abdulghani al Iryani, a Yemeni political analyst. “Beit al Ahmar, of course, is the hometown of much of the top leadership of the Yemeni armed forces.”
“It is, to put it as generously as possibly, completely reckless for AP to present this primitive, error-strewn, thoroughly common graph as secret, powerful evidence of Iran’s work toward building a nuclear weapon. Yet from its inflammatory red headline (‘AP EXCLUSIVE: GRAPH SUGGESTS IRAN WORKING ON BOMB’) to the end of the article, this is exactly what AP did. And it did so by mindlessly repeating the script handed to it by a country which AP acknowledged is seeking to warn the world about the dangers of Iran. This is worse than stenography journalism. It is AP allowing itself, eagerly and gratefully, to be used to put its stamp of credibility on a ridiculous though destructive hoax.”—Glenn Greenwald on AP’s Nuclear Iran Fabrication (via jonathan-cunningham)
“An intellectual? Yes. And never deny it. An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself. I like this, because I am happy to be both halves, the watcher and the watched. ‘Can they be brought together?’ This is a practical question. We must get down to it. ‘I despise intelligence’ really means: ‘I cannot bear my doubts.’”—Albert Camus (via wine-loving-vagabond)
Here’s why the Democrats are full of it on social insurance and the so-called fiscal cliff:
There are two talking points:
1. The rich should pay “a little more,” their “fair share.” etc., in taxes.*
2. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security should not be cut.
Assume for the sake of the argument that the Democrats don’t have another betrayal behind Door #2. It doesn’t matter! Money’s fungible! All the household money is in one pile. If the Democrats don’t cut Medicaid, but do cut foot stamps, or unemployment insurance, or home heating aid, that pile shrinks! That’s why this should be the baseline:
Not one penny of cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or any other social insurance program, and any savings to be paid out as benefits.
The Democrats are defending programs. But they should be defending households. Here are some of the social insurance programs that are on the table, even if Social Security, Medicare, and Medcaid turn out to be off the table:
Unemployment benefits extension in 2013 ($40 billion): If long-term unemployment benefits are allowed to expire at the end of the year, some 2 million jobless will be affected. Kogan says “there will be some extension, because that’s just brutal. It’s just a question of how much.”
Section 8 Housing Assistance ($19 billion):Section 8 vouchers allow more than 2 million super low-income families to afford decent housing in the private market.
Job Training($18 billion in 2009): Loads of federal job training programs help millions of seniors, Native Americans, farm workers, veterans, young people, and displaced or laid-off workers with career development.
Head Start ($7.9 billion): The program, which helps kids from disadvantaged homes be better prepared to start school, had about a million enrollees in 2010. Research has shown that Head Start generates real long-term benefits for participants.
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program ($3.47 billion):In 2011, about 23 million poor folks got help paying the winter heating bills through LIHEAP.
Title 1 Education Grants ($322 million): Under the No Child Left Behind Act, school districts serving a big percentage of low-income kids get financial assistance to help them meet state academic standards.
Women, Infants, and Children ($7.2 million in 2011): The Department of Agriculture’s WIC program helps low-income moms and babies get access to supplemental nutrition and health care referrals. WIC has about 9 million participants, most of whom are kids.
Not one penny should be cut from of any of these programs. Go scuttle an aircraft carrier or something. Stop one of the wars. Whatever, dude. You’re the Preznit.
NOTE* Never mind that the top rate won’t come close to the 90% top rate of the Eisenhower. And never mind that as MMT teaches, the operational reality is that taxes don’t fund spending.
Lara Friedman writes: The first shot has been fired in the much-anticipated Congressional battle to punish the Palestinians for seeking to upgrade their status at the UN – and to also punish any UN agencies and any countries that support them.
The vehicle for this attack is S. 3254 – the highly contentious National Defense Authorization Act, which the Senate is now considering. For those who keep track of these sorts of things, there is NOTHING in the NDAA that in any way relates to the Palestinians. No funding, no programs – nothing. But that hasn’t stopped Senators Barrasso (R-WY), Lee (R-UT), and Inhofe (R-OK) from introducing an amendment whose purpose is defined as “To provide for restrictions on foreign assistance related to the status of the Palestinian mission to the United Nations.” A copy of the amendment, which was filed this afternoon, is available here. Senator Barrasso’s press release touting introduction of the amendment is available here.
The amendment seeks to do three things:
(1) Compel the President to cut U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority by 50% if the PA “seeks at any time after November 25, 2012, at the United Nations General Assembly or any other United Nations entity status different than the status it held on November 25, 2012″ — with such cuts continuing “until permanent status issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are fully resolved” [continue]
“The U.S. State Department has rescinded an invitation for the rock musician Andrew W.K. to travel to Bahrain and perform at a concert sponsored by the U.S. embassy. The musician had claimed on his website he’d been appointed a ‘cultural ambassador’ and was headed to Bahrain to promote ‘music, freedom and positive party power.’ But the State Department later changed its mind about sending Andrew W.K., whose musical repertoire includes titles, like ‘Party ‘Til You Puke.’ Bahrain is a key U.S. ally, home of the Navy’s Fifth Fleet, but it has received criticism recently for cracking down on protesters and jailing medics who treated demonstrators.”—
Cut through the fog, and here’s what to expect: Taxes will go up just shy of $1.2 trillion — the middle ground of what President Barack Obama wants and what Republicans say they could stomach. Entitlement programs, mainly Medicare, will be cut by no less than $400 billion — and perhaps a lot more, to get Republicans to swallow those tax hikes. There will be at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts and “war savings.” And any final deal will come not by a group effort but in a private deal between two men: Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). The two men had what one insider described as a short, curt conversation Wednesday night — but the private lines of communications remain very much open.
“[Obama] is committed, every time he talks about this, to a balanced approach that includes both, you know, revenues, spending cuts and savings through entitlement reforms,” said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, according to the New York Times.
“Both Britain and the United States have reportedly put pressure on the Palestinians to give assurances they will not use the new status to press war crimes charges against Israel at the International Criminal Court.”—
One day after France pledged to vote in favor of Palestine at the UN General Assembly this week, the support keeps coming, with Spain, Austria and Denmark adding their pledges to a “yes” side that now appears to cover virtually the entire planet.
Canada, for its part, has promised to be one of the rare “no” votes, which at this point looks like it will struggle to break into double digits when the vote takes place, likely either Thursday or Friday. The US has promised to vote no as well.
But that’s only if the vote takes place and despite repeated pledges from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to hold the vote, the US hasn’t given up on the idea of pressuring Abbas with meeting after meeting to withdraw the vote from consideration.
193 nations can vote in the UN General Assembly, and there are no vetoes. At present, the US, Israel, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy and the Czech Republic have promised “no” votes. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which has 120 members, has unanimously endorsed the plan, which in and of itself ensures passage.